Solo Sailing Update: Abby Nears The Horn, Jessica Heads For Home!

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Our two intrepid 16-year old young ladies who are out on the oceans making solo circumnavigation attempts are both reaching for milestones it seems. Both American Abby Sunderland and Australian Jessica Watson have been making progress in their respective journeys, and while one nears a major challenge, the other is heading well on her way home.

For Abby, her first big challenge comes in the form of Cape Horn, the very tip of South America. The region is notoriously windy, and can generate some of the most powerful storms on the planet at times. The Horn has been the stuff of nightmares for sailors for hundreds of years, and the teenage adventure will be passing round it, and into the Atlantic Ocean, tomorrow.

Abby’s father has already arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina, and will be sailing out into the turbulent waters with some of the locals when his daughter goes sailing past. He hopes to catch a glimpse of her, and cheer her on, as she sets course for Africa next, in her bid to become the youngest to solo circumnavigate the globe.

The trip has not been an easy one thus far. It took her sometime to find the right boat, and at an affordable price, before settling on her small and swift Wild Eyes, which has served her well thus far. But she has lost two autopilots so far, which has made it challenging at times, including keeping Abby at the helm into the cold, and freezing nights, in recent days. And once she clears the horn, her challenges are far from over. According to this story, because she started late in the season, Abby will face similar challenges when rounding both the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia, both of which are typically not as difficult to navigate, but weather conditions could be tough.

Meanwhile, Abby’s main competition for the “Youngest Round” title is Jessica, who is zipping right along in her ship, the Ella’s Pink Lady. Jessica has now left Africa far behind and is more than halfway across the Southern Ocean and is well on her way home. She set out from Sydney, and will return there, completing her circumnavigation attempt in a few short weeks time. Thus far, she has covered more than 18,000 nautical miles, and is closing in on Cape Leeuwin as well.

For the most part, it has been business as usual for Jess as she goes about her daily routine. She’s had to deal with a variety of elements in the past few weeks but, at this point she is a veteran sailor with few challenges left to conquer. The next story will probably be out about her arrival back home, and her wait to see how long it takes Abby to finish. When she’s done, Jess will be the youngest around, but Abby is five months younger than her, and thus she has an advantage in the “race”.

At least until Laura Dekker starts her solo sail in a few months time.

Kraig Becker